Spoiler alert: the short answer is “not much”.
The Christmases of my childhood were magical. I remember how long the lead-up to the holidays felt. I remember making wish lists and mailing them to santa clause, earmarking pages in toy catalogues so my parents would know exactly what we were hoping to find under the tree. And Christmas morning, running downstairs to see all the packages piled up under the tree. We’d shake them and look around for clues for what was in them (since in Sweden we open presents after dinner. I’ll never forget what a giveaway my mum’s wrapping of my first riding helmet was and how thrilled I was to find it there under the tree. I had been wanting my own helmet for months and for Christmas that year, I got one.
But the anticipation of Christmas presents isn’t really there for our kids. When asked what they want for Christmas, they can’t really think of anything. My mum is always saying how fantastic it is that our children are so un-focused on their presents, but the truth is not that they’re un-materialistic, they’re just spoiled.
When Alec is ready for a new bike, we buy him one. When the rink in the park freezes, we go out and get skates so that the boys can try skating. When they start in soccer we get them all kitted up with everything they need. They never actually have to wait for anything. We’re not extravagant with them by any means, they’re not showered with gifts or anything. Louis basically only ever get Alec’s hand-me-downs. But when they’re developmentally ready for a new toy or similar, we get it for them. It’s hard to make them wait just because.
And at Christmas, they open one or two presents and then they’re over it. They start to play with what they’ve opened and won’t be cajoled into opening any more. Last year we didn’t even open all of the presents until days later. I like the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” philosophy of gift-giving for the kiddos, but with all the gifts from grandparents, my cousins, aunts and uncles, close friends and godparents, our children really are spoiled on Christmas eve.
So this year, apart from a small gift for each of them, we just didn’t buy them any presents. And I don’t think they’ll even notice.
How do you walk the line between giving your children everything you can give them, and risking spoiling them completely?